Accessibility links

Indonesia Expels American Analyst - 2004-06-02

Human rights workers in Indonesia say that freedom of speech is once again under threat, six years after the fall of the dictator Suharto. Their concerns come as the Indonesian government has decided to expel an American analyst who has in the past been critical of the authorities' fight against terrorism and separatism.

Indonesian government officials handed an expulsion order to Sidney Jones Tuesday evening. Ms. Jones is the head of the Southeast Asia office of International Crisis Group - a Belgium-based independent research group and one of the world's pre-eminent authorities on radical Islamic groups in the region.

The immediate expulsion order states Ms. Jones is in violation of immigration laws. The ICG says a similar expulsion order was given to her assistant and analyst, Francesca Lawe-Davies.

The move comes after the head of Indonesia's intelligence service said Ms. Jones, the ICG and 19 other local non-governmental organizations pose a threat to the security of the country. No government officials have supplied any evidence to support the accusation.

In addition, the ICG says, since the beginning of the year, all work permits for the ICG have been frozen and no Indonesian official will discuss the situation or explain why.

Todung Mulya Lubis is the chairman of the International Crisis Group's foundation in Indonesia and a prominent human rights lawyer. He says the expulsion order brings back memories of the so-called New Order of disgraced president Suharto, when human rights were routinely ignored.

"The New Order is coming back and this is precisely the policy that took place under Suharto years," he says. "We are all fighting here for democracy, for transparency, for human rights, and I think there are signs that the government is now becoming more and more authoritarian."

Since she joined the ICG in 2002, Ms. Jones has prepared a number of highly influential reports on Islamic extremism, terrorism and separatism in Indonesia. The reports have raised a number of disturbing questions about the authorities' response to these challenges.

Ms. Jones, who has spent most of the last 30 years in Indonesia, is also the world's most respected authority on Jemaah Islamiyah, the terrorist group behind the bombs on the tourist island of Bali in 2002 and the U.S. run J-W Marriott hotel in Jakarta.

None of the other 19 NGO's that the intelligence chief mentioned have been formally named. Critics fear there is an implied threat to muzzle criticism of the government as the president, Megawati Sukarnoputri, prepares for an uphill battle for re-election next month.